The back of a BC Emergency Health Services ground ambulance. (Black Press file photo)

The back of a BC Emergency Health Services ground ambulance. (Black Press file photo)

Emergency rooms close in B.C., paramedics union says ambulances unstaffed

Temporary ER closure in Merritt latest in a series due to staffing issues

Nicola Valley Hospital in Merritt, B.C., is the latest emergency room in the province to shut its doors due to lack of staff, joining a series of similar interruptions in service in British Columbia’s Interior.

Interior Health released a statement saying the department would be closed until Monday morning.

It says patients can access emergency care at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C., or at Kelowna General Hospital, while other services at the Nicola Valley Hospital will remain available during the closure.

Services were also unavailable at the South Okanagan General Hospital emergency department in Oliver, B.C., for about 24 hours this weekend, though it has since reopened.

The closures come as the Ambulance Paramedics of BC released a statement criticizing the understaffing of ambulances, saying vehicles in Maple Ridge, the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver have sat idle this weekend.

Union president Troy Clifford says in a statement that this weekend has showcased a provincewide trend of ambulances sitting empty that “seems to have no end.”

“We are urging the public to be aware that there could be significant delays in service, and use 911 when someone’s health or safety is at risk, use 811 when unsure,” Clifford said in a statement Saturday.

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